By Ellie Whyte
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.” She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, the “Winds of Change” series, and the “Heart of San Francisco” series.
The following is a 2013 interview with Julie.
PLUS! ENTER THE GIVEAWAYPost a comment about this interview at the end of the blog post and enter the Rafflecopter draw for a copy of one of Julie's books. Commenters may enter the draw to receive either a copy of any of Julie's novels in eBook format or a copy of A Light in the Window or Romance-ology 101 in paperback format (blog contributors are only eligible to enter for a copy of Romance-ology 101). A valid comment on the blog is an entry requirement into the draw. Contest open to entrants worldwide, and ends on Friday, 13 December.
· Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a baby boomer married to a man who makes me feel like I’m living my own personal romance novel. We have a 29-year-old son and a doctor daughter-in-law (for whom I prayed since my son was a baby) and a precious 15-month-old granddaughter. Our 25-year-old daughter, who graduated from law school and got engaged last year, hates to read so, yes, it’s true—I paid her $20 just to read the first chapter of my first book A Passion Most Pure. I’m happy to say it hooked her, and the rest of the books didn’t cost me a dime! ;)
· How did you become a novelist, and did you always want to write?
My romance-writing career began at the tender age of twelve when I read Gone With the Wind, after which I immediately sat down to begin my own novel, a 150-page, single-spaced manuscript that is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. I was SO hooked on romance after reading GWTW, that when I was in high school, I actually dressed up as a nun to go to a free showing for the local religious and clergy. One of my friends had a sister in the convent, so she loaned us novice habits and off we went! I sat there mesmerized, shoving free popcorn into my mouth as I watched the tug-o-war between Rhett and Scarlett. It was one of the most fun times of my teens … until we ran into the nuns from our high school! Whew, we got into trouble … but it was soooo worth it!
·What do you think is significant about Christian fiction?
Are you kidding? It puts God smack dab where He should be—in the dead center of our lives. I am a Christian romance writer, and for me, romance is not romantic unless God is in the middle. For my tastes, there’s nothing “sexy” about sin in a romance novel or movie. I’ve had people tell me that Bridges of Madison County was one of the most romantic films they have ever seen. Come again??? Since when is adultery romantic, no matter the situation! Maybe that’s just me, but I personally can’t enjoy romance (in a movie or book) unless it is according to God’s precepts OR unless it uses sin to point the reader TO His precepts. That’s the reason I LOVE Inspirational Romance so much. And, yes, “faith” (or spiritual passion) is the key component in my novels … with romantic passion hot on its heels!
· How do you hope your readers react to the stories you write?
The MOST important thing I pray readers take away from my books is the reality of how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. These books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the God of the Universe. He’s crazy about us, and if most people really understood that, their lives would turn on a dime and blessings would overtake them. Believe me, I KNOW this firsthand—I used to be a hard, cynical, coarse human being before God pulled me up by the scruff of the neck and said, “Yo, Julie! Get a clue. You’re the apple of my eye!” He’s been the love of my life ever since.
· What responses to your novels have affected you the most and why?
Deep down in the core of my being, I have a burning desire to reach women like I used to be—women who, yeah, maybe they believe in God, but they are not living for him—not in their lives or in their sexuality. So the responses that touch me the most are those that tell me my books deepened their walk with God.
Like the 15-year-old who couldn’t talk to her mom about anything, she said, until she and her mom found common ground in their mutual love of A Passion Most Pure. Or the guy who contacted me to get a signed copy for a friend he wanted as a girlfriend. When he told her he wanted a deeper relationship with her, she actually made him read A Passion Most Pure because “that was the kind of relationship she wanted, with God in the middle.” Or the woman who’d “fallen away” from Christianity and wouldn’t read Inspirational books on a dare, but picked mine up not realizing it was spiritual. She wrote that A Passion Most Pure rekindled her love for God and gave her hope again. These are stories that I treasure in my heart.One of my favorite stories, however, is the day when I was praying with my prayer partner and her 25-year-old daughter stopped by, a girl I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew that she had strayed from her Christian roots—living with her boyfriend before they got married, not going to church anymore, heavy drinking, etc. This young woman proceeded to tell me that when she read my books, she actually got angry at me. Why? Because the spiritual parts convicted her so much that she wanted to throw the books out. But she didn’t, she said, BECAUSE the intense romantic passion so grabbed her by the throat, that she was compelled to finish the books. And when she turned the last page of A Passion Redeemed, she told me it had brought her up to a whole other level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him. Call me “edgy” if you will, but for me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
· How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ?
Oh, my, it has finally brought me to the place in my life where He has become front and center, as it should be. You see, getting published was an emotional roller-coaster that took me by surprise. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, wouldn’t it? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture from 2 Corinthians ll:3, praying it almost every day: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
·As a writer, what influences have inspired you the most to write, and continue writing?
That answer is actually twofold. Initially my inspiration was Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, because from the moment I read Gone With the Wind at the age of 12, I was hooked on romance. So much so, that I immediately set out to write (along with thousands of other love-struck young girls, I’m sure), what I hoped would be “the great American novel.” Obviously my dreams of grandeur didn’t go anywhere (grin), but I did write 150 single-spaced pages of a story that is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you look at it!), almost forty years passed before God breathed new life into that early attempt and inspired me to finish my childhood novel of passion—only this time the “passion” would be for Him!
· Every writer struggles with various aspects of their writing journey. What has been the most difficult aspect of writing for you, and what come the most naturally?
The most difficult? Research and promotion—YUCK!! For pity’s sake, I just want to WRITE, not comb websites for historical facts or promote a book when it’s finally out on the shelves. I do love connecting with readers in comments, of course, but I’ve had to limit blog interviews because of some pretty tight deadlines lately, which makes me sad, but very necessary if the next book is going to get written!
What comes the most naturally?? Oh, that’s a no-brainer—writing love scenes, of course! I like tension, lots and LOTS of romantic tension, so when I write those scenes, my keyboard is smoking because my fingers fly. In fact, one of my friends wanted to know why I couldn’t just write a nice, “sweet” love scene. Duh, because I would fall asleep! J Even my husband noticed the fast and furious pace of my love scenes—he said he would be meandering along in a nice, easy passage and then, BAM! A love scene would hit, and before he knew it, he was 20 pages down the road!
· What is one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring writers - either something you adhere to, or something you wish you had known when you started writing?
Oh, man, the #1 thing I wished I’d known was what an emotional roller-coaster it is AFTER you get published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, wouldn’t it? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture from 2 Corinthians ll:3: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
· As a reader, which stories excite you the most to read, and do you have any favourite novelists?
Romance, Romance, ROMANCE!! Call me a boy-crazy juvenile delinquent who was stunted in my teens if you will, but I dearly LOVE romance!! Believe it or not, before I started writing A Passion Most Pure in my 50s, I was a romance snob—one of those professional women who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a romance novel because I didn’t consider it “serious” reading. And then God set me free from my bias when He dropped the bomb on me that the actual desire of my heart was to write romance for Him. What a shocker! Now I wouldn’t be caught dead without a romance novel in my purse or powder room at ALL times!
And favourite authors?? Mmm … now that’s a very dicey subject when there are SO many wonderful authors in the CBA today, many of whom are my good friends. BUT … I will mention two authors whose writing I feel is closest to my own “passionate” style, and they are Laura Frantz and MaryLu Tyndall. Both are very dear friends and prayer partners, but I absolutely love their writing and pretty much have them on auto-buy! J
· What are some of your most favourite places on the internet to visit, that help challenge you as a writer, and encourage you as a reader?
Well there’s a reallllly great website that I swing by quite a bit called Soul Inspirationz … ever hear of it?? ;)
I would have to say that the #1 website that challenges me as a writer and encourages me as a reader is Seekerville, a group blog to which I belong that is devoted to encouraging, inspiring, teaching, informing, and praying for writers on the road to publication and beyond. Hailed by Writer’s Digest as one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers,” Seekerville is a tight-knit family group of over 1,080 subscribers. We started over six years ago when 13 contest divas kept butting heads in various contests, so much so that we actually recognized each other’s names. Then Ruth Logan Herne and Tina Radcliffe came up with bright idea of joining forces to support each other (and eventually our readers) on the road to publication. When we started none of us were published, although two of us had been contracted. Today, all 13 of us are published and anxious to see our Seekerville friends close behind!
· What can you tell us about your most recent and upcoming novels?
Well, I actually have three very recent/upcoming releases, so I’ll list them in order if that’s okay:
—My Irish Christmas love story A Light in the Window released last November in ebook and is currently on CHRISTMAS SALE for $ .99. However, I just released the paperback version last month, and let me tell you—it’s gorgeous!! And to prove it, I invite you to check out the fabulous video my artist husband did for A Light in the Window at the link below. AND … if you do, you automatically can enter yourself into my VIDEO CONTEST, where you can win having a character named after you in my next book, a signed copy of that book, and a $50 gift card. Here’s the jacket blurb and the contest link:
One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?
Marceline Murphy, a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues, catches the eye of two of Boston’s most notorious. Patrick O’Connor and Sam O’Rourke are best friends with a bond like brothers … until they meet one woman neither can have.
Overseeing St. Mary’s Christmas play—A Light in the Window—Marcy wrestles with her attraction to both. But when disaster strikes, she’s destined to discover the play’s message firsthand. For although two men have professed their love, only one has responded to the light in the window.
—Book 2 in the Heart of San Francisco series, DARE TO LOVE AGAIN, releases January 1st, so get ready to meet spunky Allison McClare, a woman who has had her heart broken three times and is determined it will not happen again. She’s seeing red and wielding a stick, a dangerous combination when she meets a crotchety Italian police detective whose temper is as loose as hers. Here’s the jacket blurb for this sweet and funny love story that I will warn you, is the sweetest, least passionate of all my books, which means there are very few kisses, but LOTS of romantic tension! ;)
She’s a sassy socialite burned by love.
He’s a jaded cop burned by the upper class.
When sparks fly … will love catch fire again?
Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast, she quickly discovers she’s no match for the unsavory characters that haunt the dark streets.
Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite self-defense, but it seems he has little choice. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But is he just a fraud like all the rest of the men Allison’s cared for? Or the one man she can dare to love again?
—Then finally, I just released a workbook for writers entitled ROMANCE-OLOGY 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets in both ebook and paperback. Here’s the jacket blurb:
A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss … Nor is a Sigh Just a Sigh.
Award-winning “Passion Most Pure” expert Julie Lessman tackles the subject of romantic tension in today’s inspirational/sweet markets with humor and heart. Offering tips for ramping up the WOW factor with romance that is both sweet and swoonworthy, Lessman offers tried-and-true methods with before-and-after examples to illustrate the following points:
l Getting Inside the Hero’s Head with Internal Monologue
l Maximizing Use of Beats in Dialogue
l Effectively Using Dialogue to Escalate Tension
l Utilizing Dual Point of View
l Escalating Romantic Tension with Anger
l Using All Five Senses For Heightened Effect
l Cashing in on the Kid and Pet Factor
l Enhance Mood with Emotionally Charged Words/Verbs
l Capitalizing on the Element of Surprise
l Exposing Desire in an Unwilling Character
l Immediate Hero/Heroine Confrontation
l Making the Most of Touch and Response
l Implementing the Concept of Forbidden Fruit
l Words With a Hint of Taboo
l Derogatory Words/Exclamations for Inspirational Romance
l KISS-ology 101: The Many Faces of a Kiss
· Do you have any parting words?
Yes, thank you SO much, Ellie, for this wonderful opportunity! I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so if they like, they can contact me through my website at http://www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/.
Also, I have a cool blog feature on my website called “Journal Jots” at http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/, which is a very laid-back Friday journal to my reader friends that will give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Or readers can check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/. Finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
And just as an FYI for your readers:
CURRENT GIVEAWAYS/SALES/CONTESTS GOING ON RIGHT NOW: For those interested in reading my books, I have a number of fun things going on, so I hope you’ll take advantage of these opportunities:
l FREE Download of my debut novel A Passion Most Pure! American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Book of the Year, A Passion Most Pure has 270 five-star reviews on Amazon and some of my readers have actually read it more than 20 times! Here are the links for your free download! AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, iBOOKSTORE, CHRISTIANBOOKSTORE.COM
l JULIE’S CHRISTMAS VIDEO CONTEST!! Want to have a character named after you in Julie Lessman’s next book, a signed copy of that book, and a $50 gift card? Or maybe your choice of any of Julie’s books, including her new paperback release of A Light in the Window OR her January 1st release of Dare to Love Again? Well now you can, AND get to ogle some rogues in the process, choosing your favorite from Julie’s brand-new video for A Light in the Window. And then, of course, she’s also celebrating the Christmas SALE of her 99-cent ebook for A Light in the Window as well [pricing may differ for readers outside the USA, but the book is still value-priced], so head on over and give it a shot — you’ll be glad you did! Here’s the link: http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/
PLUS! ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
Post a comment about this interview and enter the Rafflecopter draw for a copy of one of Julie's books. Commenters may enter the draw to receive either a copy of any of Julie's novels in eBook format or a copy of A Light in the Window or Romance-ology 101 in paperback format (blog contributors are only eligible to enter for a copy of Romance-ology 101). A valid comment on the blog is an entry requirement into the draw. Contest open to entrants worldwide, and ends on Friday, 13 December at 10pm AEST/11:59pm NZST
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Visit Julie's Author Portfolio Page at Soul Inspirationz // Christian Fiction Site to find links to her website and other online hangouts, as well as her list of books and a Featured Author Interview.
ELLIE WHYTE is a long-time supporter of Christian fiction and is the founder and owner/operator of Soul Inspirationz // The Christian Fiction Site which relaunched after a 5-year hiatus in January 2013. Ellie also has aspirations for her own writing career, and has begun working on a project set in New Zealand in the 1850s. http://soulinspirationz.blogspot.com
Facebook: Soul Inspirationz http://www.facebook.com/soulinspirationz
Twitter: @SoulInspiredNZ http://twitter.com/SoulInspiredNZ
Facebook: Soul Inspirationz http://www.facebook.com/soulinspirationz
Twitter: @SoulInspiredNZ http://twitter.com/SoulInspiredNZ